Hitting the right notes

Hitting the right notes

Musical tales

Hitting the right notes

Grammy award-winning American singer Darlene Koldenhoven wears many hats — soprano, pianist, songwriter, arranger, composer, record producer, actor and more.

Known for her role as the singing nun in the ‘Sister Act’, she was in the city recently to deliver a Western vocal talk and masterclass organised by The Majolly Music Trust. She took time off from inspiring budding singers to talk to Rajitha Menon about her life and her time in India.
How do you feel your musical journey has been so far?

My musical journey has been nothing short of a wild ride. I never dreamt that my singing, teaching, songwriting and piano playing would take me all around the globe. Sure, there have been ups and downs but overall I feel so blessed to make a living creating music and sharing it with people around the world.
Do you feel there is an interest or scope for Western vocal singing in India?

There indeed is a great interest in Western singing — from classical to jazz to musical theatre to pop. Music is the one universal language we all can share.
What are your thoughts on Indian music?

I was totally fascinated with Indian music once I was exposed to it. There are many unique aspects to it, especially for a Western acculturated ear. One of my favourite concerts was the one I attended in Southern California many years ago — an Ali Akbar Khan concert. Once all those tablas and drums got going, I felt like I was transported out of my seat to another plane.
Your thoughts on Bengaluru...

I was very surprised at how westernised Bengaluru seems to be, while still maintaining its rich culture. The people I’ve met have been so gracious and kind. The weather reminds me of my hometown of Chicago, Illinois where I grew up. I also love all the beautiful saris the women wear. But I hope that the authorities do something about the garbage, the broken sidewalks and the traffic. Most of all, the noise pollution bothered me. Every time I step out of my hotel, I have to wear my earplugs. As a singer and as a human being, I have to protect my ability to hear and listen. I’ve been to a lot of big cities and Bengaluru wins for the loudest city in my book.
Did you get a chance to try some of the cuisines here?

I enjoy Indian food immensely and so far it’s top-notch at all the places I’ve eaten here in Bengaluru. Unfortunately, I am on a very strict diet and I cannot have dairy or gluten products so that eliminates quite a bit of the wonderful Indian cuisine for me.
What is your advice for the budding singers out there?

My advice to budding singers is practise, practise and when you think you’re done practising, practise more. Secondly, to make money from music is a real blessing and requires a lot of hardwork and personal sacrifices. Find a really great teacher, ask a lot of questions, expose yourself to a wide variety of music. Learn from others but try not to mimic them; instead, create your own sound in style. Most of all, have fun.
We heard you stitched your own clothes for this visit to India? So you can sew too? Is there anything you can’t do?

I finally have a hobby and that is sewing. My grandmother taught me how to sew when I was seven-years-old and I sewed most of my clothes until I was 29. When I moved from Chicago to Los Angeles to become a studio singer and recording artiste, I stopped because I was too busy but lately I realised how therapeutic it is for me.

There are many things I do well and there are many things I don’t do. One thing I would like to learn is tablas and ‘ragas’. I am certainly not very good with these, at least at this point. But I am sure that if I make enough time, I can learn these too. The point being that most people can do a whole lot more than they think they can if they just put their mind to it.